New Food Marketing Guidelines Undermine Parental Responsibility

On Thursday, the federal government once again appealed to the food industry to stop marketing junk food to kids. This time, though, government officials provided a specific set of guidelines for food makers:

Citing an epidemic of childhood obesity, regulators are taking aim at a range of tactics used to market foods high in sugar, fat or salt to children, including the use of cartoon characters like Toucan Sam, the brightly colored Froot Loops pitchman, who appears in television commercials and online games as well as on cereal boxes.

The guidelines, released by the Federal Trade Commission, encompass a broad range of marketing efforts, including television and print ads, Web sites, online games that act as camouflaged advertisements, social media, product placements in movies, the use of movie characters in cross-promotions and fast-food children’s meals.[…]

The guidelines are meant to be voluntary, but companies are likely to face heavy pressure to adopt them. Companies that choose to take part would have five to 10 years to bring their products and marketing into compliance.

Voluntary guidelines to prevent the next generation of American children from becoming obese—that doesn’t sound so bad, right? Voluntary is voluntary, after all; and childhood obesity is BAD; and Toucan Sam was always a little obnoxious, as far as cartoon parrots go . . . so what’s there to get upset about, really?

Except: When was the last time you saw a child walk into a supermarket to buy himself a box of Froot Loops?

It’s silly, really: federal government officials are asking private companies to change their marketing practices so that children will stop wanting their parents to buy junk food for them. What about adult responsibility? Is the government trying to belittle parental authority, or does this kind of side-step, go-around approach just come naturally to bureaucrats? Where are all those “Just Say No” posters when you need them?